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Slavery by Another Name

My sister asked me to watch the PBS special, Slavery by Another Name. I don’t know about you, but I have really have to psych myself up to watch one of these specials. I find them very, very depressing. The show was fascinating, enlightening and damn depressing. In a nutshell, Whites used various methods from the end of reconstruction to 1940 to re-enslave Blacks. Now, I paid attention in high school and college. I don’t remember one lecture on this stuff. I knew that during reconstruction there were several Blacks who were voted into Congress from the deep south. Many Blacks opened businesses and bought land. Then something happened. It all vanished. Basically, a series of laws and statues were passed that said in essense – if you are Black, you ain’t got nothing. Tons of laws were passed that criminalized things that you and I would not think of as crimes – playing dice, walking on railroad tracks, the inability to prove that you are employed at any given moment. Once you were arrested, fines were thrown at you. If you couldn’t pay the fine, you had go to jail. The city or state would then rent your services to local businesses. You became cheap labor, cheap and expendable labor. The Master didn’t own you like in the past. Now, you could be shot by your boss. You were buried and your former boss would go and get another loaner (slave) from the state. Peonage. What the Hell? I had to go look that up. I have never heard the word peonage (the use of laborers bound in servitude because of debt). Cheap Black labor became the engine that pulled the deep south of poverty. At the end of the Civil War, there were four million poor Blacks and four million poor Whites in the south. By 1940, there were eight million Whites living in the middle class and millions of Black Americans were simply out of luck. They didn’t even get a little taste of prosperity for their hard work. I highly recommend Slavery by Another Name, but you might want to take a little something to help steady your nerves before watching. It is a very powerful program. I’m reading the book now. So, you might note that my mood is a little testy!

By |2012-03-06T07:14:57-04:00March 6th, 2012|Race|Comments Off on Slavery by Another Name

Governor Dean, Are You Ready to Lead?

Barack ObamaMelissa Harris-Lacewell is one of my favorite people. She has been on my show a couple of times and on the Bill Moyer’s Journal twice. The following is a letter that she posted on The Root.

There’s still time for you to save the Democratic Party.

May 7, 2008

Dear Gov. Dean,

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are not tied. You know this. There is little chance of a gracious settlement offer from the Clinton camp. The slim margin in Indiana gives her just enough rationale to stay in it.

Given that she will not voluntarily withdraw, Mr. Dean, I am asking you to take a hard look at the Democratic Party and consider whether you want that party to have a future. If so, now is the time for leadership.

The broad and powerful Democratic coalition of the New Deal no longer exists. By and large, southern whites have joined with Republicans. White ethnic Catholics exit in greater numbers each election. Labor union households are still Democrats, but their numbers and influence are declining. Although the 1990s saw a two-term Democratic president, he had such short coattails that the party lost its 40-year majority in the House within 24 months of his inauguration. In short, the party is in trouble. If it is to have a future, Democrats must forge new coalitions.

The party must shore up its strengths. African-Americans are the most consistently loyal Democratic partisans in national and local elections. But the tie between blacks and the Democratic Party does not bind as fiercely as it once did. There has been a notable decline among blacks who call themselves Strong Democrats and a substantial increase in African-Americans who identify as Independents. Also, far fewer black Americans now believe that there are clear differences between the parties. If you don’t believe me, just ask my Republican colleague Jeff Grynaviski, from the University of Chicago. He and I researched these trends together and he has no horse in this race. He will tell you that these are the same patterns that occurred among white southeners and Catholics before they started shopping for a new party.

Mr. Dean, if you allow Senator Clinton to take the party’s nomination after ruthlessly deploying race in this primary campaign, you will obliterate your base. Despite all the media chatter about white, working class voters, the candidate with a demographic problem is Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Obama has developed a national, multiracial coalition, and his vote share among white voters has remained largely consistent throughout the campaign. Just look how well he did last night in Indiana. Hillary Clinton has gone from the favored candidate among black voters in early opinion polls to a candidate who has been repudiated by 92 percent of those voters, a fact proven last night in North Carolina.

Let’s be clear. When black folks switch parties, we do it decisively. After nearly a century of unwavering commitment to the party of Lincoln, it was Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid in 1964, designed to appeal to entrenched American racism, which led to an increase in black Democratic Party identifiers from 59 percent to 86 percent in a single election. Despite Obama’s call for unity in his North Carolina victory speech last night, black Americans will not stand behind a candidate who deploys a Goldwater strategy within our own party. Our opposition to the war will not allow us to vote for McCain, but we can choose to exit the coalition, withhold our votes, to protest a Clinton candidacy. This is not a threat. It is an observation based on historical evidence. (more…)

By |2008-05-28T21:35:31-04:00May 28th, 2008|Election 2008, Party Politics, Race|Comments Off on Governor Dean, Are You Ready to Lead?
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